How to make a shinigami cosplay outfit

Updated April 17, 2017

The shinigami outfit is a popular choice in cosplay (meaning "costume play: both noun -- the costume itself; and verb -- to dress up as a fictional character, usually from sci-fi, manga or anime). "Shinigami" means death god or death deity, an equivalent of the soul reaper or grim reaper in Western cultures; a character popularised by the Japanese manga/anime "Bleach" and "Death Note." The basic shinigami outfit is made up of four parts: the white "juban" (acts as under-kimono/robe; resembling an undershirt), the black "kosode" (kimono-like robe), the black "hakama" (skirt-trousers) and the white "obi" (sash-belt).

The juban is like a short bathrobe or kimono. Use the white cotton fabric to make the juban, since it acts as an undergarment and therefore should be comfortable. Cut it according to your bathrobe or kimono sewing pattern, but drop the shoulder seams so they fall a third of the way down the upper arm. The sleeves can be hemmed at your wrists or at the middle of the forearm, whichever you prefer. Sew the pieces together, leaving a 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) underarm seam that is not sewn up, creating an opening and making part of the sleeves dangle. The hem of the juban should fall just above your hips.

Make the kosode with black silk or cotton fabric. Silk is recommended because its shine makes it look more regal and elegant. Follow the pattern of the juban but make the kosode's body a little wider -- at least by 6 mm (1/4 inch) -- and the sleeves a little shorter -- by 3.8 cm (1 1/2 inches) than the juban, so that they layer nicely. 2.5 cm (1 inch) of the white collar of the juban should show under the black collar of the kosode when they are layered. The kosode should be knee-length. Both juban and kosode are tucked into the hakama.

Use the same black silk fabric for the hakama (skirt-trousers), following the sewing pattern and making the legs wide enough for you to move freely and at the same time fall like a skirt when you're simply standing straight. Create six pleats in front of the trousers and one pair at the back.

Make the obi. Cut the denim and white cotton in strips. The length of the denim should be exactly the same as your waist measurement. The white cotton outer fabric should be 10 cm (4 inches) wide and long enough to go around your waist at least twice, with enough left for tying. Sew the denim cloth inside the white cotton to stiffen the obi (sash-belt).

"Bleach" shinigami captains ("taichiou") don white haori (vests) on top of their kosode to denote rank and division. Cut and sew the white cotton fabric as you would a loose vest, with length depending on the specific captain's haori length. Some captains, such as Kuchiki Byakuya and Hitsugaya Toushiro, wear sleeveless haori; while Unohana Retsu and Ukitake Jyuushiro have long sleeved haori. Paint the division number (with fabric paint) at the back of the haori. Add additional accessories specific to the shinigami character you're portraying. Note that "Death Note" shinigami Ryuuku has a totally different outfit.

Things You'll Need

  • White cotton cloth
  • Black cotton or silk cloth
  • Bathrobe/kimono sewing pattern (basic, may need to be modified)
  • Hakama sewing pattern
  • Scissors
  • Needles and thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Tape measure
  • Pre-washed denim
  • Fabric paint (optional)
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About the Author

Rose Sartaguda is a freelance writer/creative consultant. A professional writer for more than 10 years, she is also the creative director of Music of My Soul, a nonprofit media organization.